The key to this side lies in its simplicity: good, simple ingredients, simply prepared. I use the three components of mustard, pomegranate molasses and either vinegar or lime juice in all kinds of stove top dishes -- typically ones we enjoy on weeknights, when time is at a premium. (I first created this sauce to use on salmon fillets.) Some cooks recommend blanching Brussels sprouts before cooking. I find that a short brine -- a method recommended by Irma Rombauer in her early 1940's edition of "The Joy of Cooking" -- works even better. Blanching tends to cook the outside leaves, making them a bit too soft for my taste when the sprouts are finally served. Brining keeps the color nice and bright, without sacrificing any firmness when cooked. Also, if you're wondering about the unconventional nickname for Brussels sprouts, well, I can't really tell you where it came from originally. We always called them that when I was a child. It's a term of endearment. I hope you enjoy these. ;o) —AntoniaJames
4-6, depending on how many other sides you've got
16-20 ounces Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup raw pepitas or 1/4 quarter cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other oil with a high smoking point)
1/4 pound lean country bacon or pancetta (optional, but a nice touch)
2 teaspoons bold stoneground mustard (I use one with horseradish in it.)
1 ½ teaspoons pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons red verjus or 1 tablespoon apple cider, preferably unfiltered
Trim the Brussels sprouts and cut each one in half. (Halve even the smaller ones. You want the rough cut surfaces to soak up the sauce.) Drop into a bowl or other container in which you've dissolved a couple good pinches of salt in enough water go cover the cut Brussels sprouts. (An amount equal their volume or a bit more should be plenty.) When ready to use, drain thoroughly and lightly pat them dry. Don't worry about drying them thoroughly, as a bit of water will help steam them.)
Toast the pepitas or walnuts until they just begin to darken a bit, either in a hot skillet, shaking frequently to prevent burning, or in a 350 degree oven for 6 - 8 minutes, or more if necessary. Check often lest they burn. See note below for a variation.
Cut the bacon into 3/4" squares and fry until crispy in a small skillet. When the bits are cooked, remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
Combine all of the remaining ingredients except the grape seed oil and salt and pepper in a small bowl, or a tightly lidded jar, if preparing ahead of time.
Shortly before you're ready to serve, heat a large skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add the oil, which should thin out immediately. If you don't have a very large skillet, do the initial frying in two batches. You don't want them crowded in the pan. Put the Brusslies into the skillet and flip the halves over, as necessary, so the cut side is down.
Put a timer on for two minutes and leave the Brusslies alone. Do not touch them. They need sustained exposure to the high heat to caramelize. After two minutes, put a cover on the skillet.
Turn the heat off, and immediately put your timer on for another 2 minutes, or 3 if your Brusslies halves are on the large side. (If cooking up two batches, take the first batch out now and set aside. Add them back in when you've gotten to this point with the second batch. I.e., you can steam both halves at the same time.) When the 2 -3 minutes are up, check by tasting one Brusslie half. If you want it cooked a bit more -- larger ones may need it -- put the lid back on and let them steam for another minute or so.
Stir the sauce and put it into the pan. Turn the heat on to medium, stirring all the while, until the sauce starts to thicken. That will take about a minute, at most. Then, stir the Brusslies to coat.
Turn off the heat; check and correct salt if necessary. Grind on some black pepper, add the bacon bits, if using, and pepitas. Toss gently.
Serve with extra red wine vinegar on the side.
NB: I recommend using verjus when making these for parties, as the dish works better with nice wines when the acidity is toned down. ;o)
Advance prep: Fry up the lardons and toast your crunchy garnish early in the day or even a day or two before; prep your Brussels sprouts and store them in brine in your fridge until ready to use; and mix together the sauce ingredients in a small jar and set aside until you need them. (I put the covered jar in the serving dish, with the serving utensil, well in advance of the meal, so everything is right there when I need it.) These hold well for about 30 minutes before serving, and taste great at room temperature.
I originally published this recipe with a step for soaking the pepitas in lime juice before toasting them. It adds extra time, so I'm dropping it into a footnote, as it were: Heat oven to 350 degrees. For a fancy touch, soak the pepitas in 2 tablespoons of lime juice for at least 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the lime juice for another use. (It will be a bit cloudy, but perfectly suitable for salad dressing, quacamole, hummus, etc.) Toast the pepitas on a parchment lined baking sheet until toasted and fragrant, 10 - 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a clean plate - you want them off the parchment, which will be somewhat moist if you soaked the pepitas -- and then put in a tightly covered box, if not using right away.
When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)